A new member of the Leech Lake Tribal Council is making good on his campaign promise.

LeRoy Staples-Fairbanks III pledged to give 12.5 percent of his gross salary -- $50,000 over four years -- to a scholarship at Leech Lake Tribal College. He presented the first check this month.

"Education is the best tool that you can use to become less dependent and ... open the door for further and more opportunities," he said.

Staples-Fairbanks, 30, said he grew up poor and didn't graduate from college, but was motivated to help his community. He worked construction, then as a drug and alcohol counselor, then in tribal government.

The endowed scholarship fund will eventually help selected second-year students, possibly following them if they pursue four-year degrees at other schools, too.

"I'm very blessed to be in this position," he said. "I want to make a strong point here at home that people can give back."

He's hoping others follow.